Fire restrictions start in valley; red flag warning on tap today |

Fire restrictions start in valley; red flag warning on tap today

Staff report

Garfield County will put fire restrictions in place today on unincorporated private and public lands and Pitkin County might not be far behind.

The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office announced Wednesday that it will enact Stage 1 fire restrictions until further notice. That means:

• Campfires will only be allowed in designated metal, in-ground fire grates in development campgrounds.

• No fires of any kind, including charcoal, will be allowed outside of developed areas.

• Smoking will be prohibited except in an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or in a barren area free of vegetation.

• No use of explosive materials, including explosive targets or bullets.

• No welding or operation of an acetylene or other similar torch with an open flame except in a barren area clear of vegetation.

• No operation of any internal combustion engine without a spark-arresting device properly installed and in working order.

“People in Garfield County understand what fires season is, and we typically see good compliance with fire restrictions, which helps reduce the number of human-caused fires,” Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said.

The decision was made in conjunction with six fire districts in the county.

It comes as a red-flag warning has been issued for today (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.) for nearly all of western Colorado, including Pitkin, Garfield and Eagle counties. The National Weather Service office in Grand Junction is predicting “critical fire weather conditions” with high winds and low humidity today for much of western Colorado and eastern Utah.

“The gusty winds (up to 35 mph) in combination with very dry air including relative humidity values in the single digits for most areas will result in critical fire weather conditions,” according to the warning.

The Carbondale Fire Department announced earlier that it would start summer wildfire patrols this week. Fire crews with an engine will patrol lands that take a long time to reach if responding from the fire stations.

In Pitkin County, officials are monitoring conditions and restrictions will go into effect if thresholds, including moisture content in vegetation, are met, according to Pitkin County Emergency Manager Valerie MacDonald.

“If the weather forecast is correct we could go into restriction in the next couple of weeks as high elevations take longer to dry out,” MacDonald said in an email. “Remember that 80 percent of wildfires are human caused. Use caution.”